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Up in the air

NIKHIL VARMA
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BOOK Vijaya Lukose’s novel is a tongue-in-cheek account of the low-cost airline industry in India

Interesting storiesOf people “catching seats” with their handkerchief
Interesting storiesOf people “catching seats” with their handkerchief

In the early 2000s, the age of low-cost airlines dawned in India, making flying a very affordable activity for millions of middle class Indians. Airport lounges resembled railway stations and Indians found getting used to the concept of free seating a little difficult to comprehend. All the ensuing chaos and multiple incidents played a part in shaping Vijaya Lukose’s second novel Absolutely Nuts (Rupa and co., Rs.195).

Lukose played a vital role in the setting up of two Indian private airlines, East West in the 90s and Air Deccan in the early 2000s. “I enjoyed being one of the first employees in these establishments and the thrill of starting something new. This book is a tongue-in-cheek take on the phenomenon of low cost airlines. We have had instances of passengers rushing into the aircraft and holding seats for their families, in true commuter fashion, by flinging a handkerchief or a sock on the seats. Issues such as lack of facilities such as in-flight food and entertainment have also been mentioned.”

Lukose contends that the book is not autobiographical and is a fictional take on the low-cost airline industry. “Ï had worked in a low- cost airline and discovered that despite the multitude of stories that people in the aviation industry share with friends and co-workers, there are no books that deal with the industry as such. This is my second book.” Her first book was a self-help book, giving tips to youngsters interested in taking up cabin crew positions in the aviation industry.

“I realised that many youngsters were smart and focussed on taking up this profession, but lacked some basic skills which rendered them unemployable. After the first book, I decided to try my hand at fiction writing and Absolutely Nuts happened,” says Lukose.

Absolutely Nuts was never meant to be a funny novel when Lukose started on the project. “I was planning a novel that gave an insider take on the impact of the low-cost airline industry in India on the passengers, the people managing it etc. However, I decided to write a book that is a light read and a humorous take on an industry that made commuting a very easy option for millions of Indians.” Lukose says that the current economic climate is the primary reason for the problems that ail many airlines (high cost and low cost) in India. “There was bound to be a correction. However, low cost air travel has massive growth potential and will continue to grow. The grounding of Kingfisher has freed up a slot and many players are vying for that space.”

She plans to write a third book, an anthology of stories related to the aviation industry. “Short stories are easier to write. You do not have to work much with character building and can tell the story straight. I have just started working on this book.”

NIKHIL VARMA

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